“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:8-11(NRSV)
In my house this week we relearned the meaning of the word accident. Our son has reached the place in his development where he is extremely curious and he is incredibly mobile. In the space of just a couple hours my son had emptied my jar of eye cream, one of the few luxuries I still allow myself, and had poured my coffee all over my husband’s computer. In my effort to “save” the computer I was not gentle with my son. I unceremoniously dumped my son on the floor and then told him that what he did was bad. The words, “That was bad Timothy;” have haunted me all week. I think this is the first time I have told him that something he did was bad. The whole incident resulted in both of us crying. On reflection, I was very proud of myself for not losing my temper. I didn’t yell at him or say any bad words. I was really very calm but this doesn’t change how bad I felt. I felt guilty that the incident had happened at all and I felt guilty for telling him that he had done bad.
In some ways being a parent has made feel like I understand God and the relationship He has with us better. With all of God’s omnipotence accidents still happen. Human Will causes bad things to happen in our world and causes pain every day. We behave badly all the time and yet God still loves us and still forgives us. The love God has for us was not truly comprehensible to me until I became a mother, now I understand. For my son, my husband and I are his first point of contact for understanding the meaning of true, steadfast love. The way we approach his accidents and his mistakes is how he will come to know what it means to be loved.
Accidents happen, we have to accept them and sometimes we have to pay the consequences of them. By the same token it is hard to be parents and it is so hard to tell our children they have done wrong. While my son did not mean to be destructive that does not change the fact that he did do damage. We will have to all learn how to navigate the waters of bad behavior together. It will be hard to tell our son when he does wrong and it will be hard for him to hear it. The one thing we must keep in mind is that we must always approach wrong doing with love and dignity.
Questions for Further Reflection
1. Are there any examples in the Bible of how God has handled wrong doing or accidents? What do these interactions teach us about God’s love and forgiveness and how He disciplines us?
2. Can you remember a time when your parents handled an accidently harshly? How did that affect you? Does it influence the way you will approach accidents with your child?
3. Can you remember a time when your parents handled an accident or mistake with compassion? How did that affect you? Does that influence the way you will handle accidents?
4. Sometime it is easier to see the log in another’s eye: Have you observed situations where children had done something on accident or made a mistake and you thought that a parent did not handle things well? What did they do that you didn’t like? In contrast have you seen a parent handle a situation in a way that you would like to emulate?
5. Have you and your husband discussed how you will approach accidents and mistakes? Does having an “action plan” make a difference in the moment or does it only help after things have calmed down?
6. Is it hard to accept the difference between intentionally doing wrong and accidents? How can we tell the difference?